Monday, February 19, 2018

AmericaGen Chapter 2: Sally Colter

Reference: Greenwood, Val D. “Language, Terminology, and Important Issues.” In The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th ed., 29-56. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2017.

Several years ago, I traced my Horton line back to Joseph Horton, who died in Roane County, Tennessee between the time he wrote his will on 29 June 1812 and April 1813, when an inventory of his estate was filed [1].  Other documents suggested he lived in the area of Knox County that became Roane County in 1803, but finding anything about him before that timeframe was difficult.  Given the area’s history, I knew it was unlikely that he was born in Tennessee, but discovering where he lived before coming to Tennessee was a source of never-ending frustration for several years. 

In his will, Joseph named the following heirs:

Mary Horton, wife
James, youngest son
Joseph, son of James
Hannah Terry, daughter
John Horton, son
Polly Gladden, daughter
Nancy Cooner, daughter
Heirs of William Horton, son
Sally Coulter, daughter
Rebecca Burk, daughter
Peggy Breshear, daughter
Phebe Walker, daughter

The will and inventory do not name his daughters’ husbands, and no other estate records survive. In an attempt to research the family, and hoping to establish a FAN club, I searched Tennessee records for each of the children.  I easily found marriage records for Rebecca and Peggy, both of whom married in East Tennessee, but I had trouble locating marriage records for the other children, including his sons.

I finally had a breakthrough when research led me to believe a man named John Colter, who lived in East Tennessee in the 1790’s, was a possible associate of Joseph Horton.  Aha! Could this man be a relative of the Colter that Sally Horton had married? Vertical files at the McClung Library in Knoxville suggested that John Colter came from North Carolina.  Armed with that first name, I began searching for marriage records in North Carolina, and found a marriage bond filed in Lincoln County on 22 Oct 1789 for John Colter and Sarah Horton.[2]  

Marriage Bond for John Colter and Sarah Horton, 1789

Since Sally was often a nickname for Sarah, I knew this was not conflicting evidence and continued my research on John Colter.   I found him on the 1790 census of Lincoln County, and one of his neighbors is Joseph Horton![3]

Joseph Horton and John Colter, 1790 Census for Lincoln County, North Carolina

 Of course, more evidence is needed to prove that the Sarah Horton that married John Colter in Lincoln County, North Carolina is the same Sally Horton Colter mentioned 33 years later in a will in East Tennessee, but these records give me a place to start.  If I had not known that Sally is a nickname for Sarah, I could have easily dismissed the marriage record as irrelevant and spent another couple of years frustrated that I couldn’t break this brick wall.

[1] Historical Records Project, “Estate Books, 1802-1842, Roane County, Tennessee,” pages 25-26, entry for Joseph Horton; digital images, “Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1779-2008,” Ancestry ( : accessed 18 February 2018).

[2] "North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 22 December 2016), Lincoln > Marriage bonds, 1779-1868, vol C-D > image 485 of 968.

[3] 1790 U.S. census, Lincoln County, North Carolina, 4th Company, p. 111, col. 2; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 18 February 2018), image 2 of 11, citing FHL film 0568147.


  1. You did great detective work in finding this! And, this is a great example of using the FAN club. I also love how you are sourcing all of your citations. I need to get better at that when I blog!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Dana! Those darned citations are what kept me from getting this posted on time...and why Chapter 1 never DID get posted. One of these days I'll get the sources added and post that one!